Driving the 20-mile stretch of freeway between Cascade Locks and Hood River will soon be much smoother as the first phase of repaving work begins this week.
In conjunction with that project, commercial truck traffic will be subject to load weight reductions on the railroad overcrossings at milepost 63.4 that could last up to one year. Effective on Oct. 8, the maximum allowable cargo will be 105,500 pounds, according to Charlie Sciscione, ODOT district manager.
He said vehicles exceeding that limit will be diverted to other roadways at the time their special hauling permit is issued. According to Sciscione, ODOT decided to reduce tonnage after minor cracks were recently found by safety inspectors in the girders under the westbound lanes. The Hood River crossings were identified as one of 22 new problem bridges that have joined 49 others around the state that are already weight restricted. Since the aging structures in the Gorge are slated for an overhaul that begins next spring, Sciscione said ODOT decided to forestall further problems by reducing truck loads until repairs have been made and new decking and rails have been installed on both passages.
Truckers with questions about the bridge restriction can call the Motor Carrier Transportation Division at (503) 373-000 or access the ODOT website at:
According to Sciscione, the railroad bridge construction is expected to bring only minor traffic delays since a temporary thoroughfare will be erected while work is underway. He also anticipates few problems with vehicle passage along Interstate 84 during the next few weeks while contractor J.C. Compton, Inc., of McMinnville, undertakes grinding to even out deeply rutted sections of the highway and then, weather permitting, lays down the first layer of pavement.
Although one lane may be closed during that work, causing some travel delays, assistant project manager Bob Neill said vehicles will face detours only near off-ramps and no total road closures are planned. No weekend or holiday construction has been scheduled.
Sciscione said the final overlay of asphalt will be put on the roadway next year and will have a more porous surface that is expected to eliminate a lot of the standing water which currently pools in low spots and causes some vehicles to hydroplane. In addition, he said visibility will be heightened by a newer type of striping, an increased number of reflectors on the concrete median strips, and road markers for travelers during poor weather conditions.
Sciscione said motorists driving on new pavement should be extremely cautious during the first fall rains because oils will leech onto the highway surface and make passage more slippery that normal.
The $12.5 million construction project was slated to begin three months ago, but language changes in the advertised work scope during the contractor bidding process legally necessitated that it be readvertised. The work is expected to be completed by November of 2002.